• Stem


    • enPR: stÄ•m, IPA: /stÉ›m/
    • Rhymes: -É›m

    Origin 1

    Old English stemn, stefn ("stem, trunk (of a tree)"), from Proto-Germanic *stamniz.

    Full definition of stem



    (plural stems)
    1. The stock of a family; a race or generation of progenitors.
      • Miltonall that are of noble stem
      • HerbertWhile I do pray, learn here thy stem
        And true descent.
    2. A branch of a family.
      • ShakespeareThis is a stem
        Of that victorious stock.
    3. An advanced or leading position; the lookout.
      • FullerWolsey sat at the stem more than twenty years.
    4. (botany) The above-ground stalk (technically axis) of a vascular plant, and certain anatomically similar, below-ground organs such as rhizomes, bulbs, tubers, and corms.
      • Sir Walter RaleighAfter they are shot up thirty feet in length, they spread a very large top, having no bough nor twig in the trunk or the stem.
    5. A slender supporting member of an individual part of a plant such as a flower or a leaf; also, by analogy, the shaft of a feather.the stem of an apple or a cherry
    6. A narrow part on certain man-made objects, such as a wine glass, a tobacco pipe, a spoon.
    7. (linguistic morphology) The main part of an uninflected word to which affixes may be added to form inflections of the word. A stem often has a more fundamental root. Systematic conjugations and declensions derive from their stems.
    8. (typography) A vertical stroke of a letter.
    9. (music) A vertical stroke of a symbol representing a note in written music.
    10. (nautical) The vertical or nearly vertical forward extension of the keel, to which the forward ends of the planks or strakes are attached.

    Derived terms


    1. To remove the stem from.to stem cherries; to stem tobacco leaves
    2. To be caused or derived; to originate.The current crisis stems from the short-sighted politics of the previous government.
    3. To descend in a family line.
    4. To direct the stem (of a ship) against; to make headway against.
    5. (obsolete) To hit with the stem of a ship; to ram.
      • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.ii:As when two warlike Brigandines at sea,
        With murdrous weapons arm'd to cruell fight,
        Doe meete together on the watry lea,
        They stemme ech other with so fell despight,
        That with the shocke of their owne heedlesse might,
        Their wooden ribs are shaken nigh a sonder ...
    6. To ram (clay, etc.) into a blasting hole.

    Origin 2

    From Old Norse stemma ("to stop, stem, dam") (whence Danish stemme/stæmme ("to stem, dam up")), from Proto-Germanic *stammijaną. Cognate with German stemmen; compare stammer.


    1. To stop, hinder (for instance, a river or blood).to stem a tide
      • DenhamThey stem the flood with their erected breasts.
      • Alexander PopeStemmed the wild torrent of a barbarous age.
    2. (skiing) To move the feet apart and point the tips of the skis inward in order to slow down the speed or to facilitate a turn.


    Origin 3



    (plural stems)
    1. Alternative form of steem


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